THE RELIGION OF SPAIN
The religion of Spain, as everyone knows, is Catholicism, and practically everyone there is a Catholic. The variety is Roman Apostolic.
Aside from the Catholics, there are a few thousand Jews, mostly Sephardic, who left the countries of North Africa to settle in the larger urban centers like Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla and Cordoba. Recently, a synagogue was inaugurated at Mallorca. Spain also has some Anglicans.
The Spanish Catholics are religious in a uniquely Spanish style. Catholicism has played, and continues to play such a large role in the life of the country, that it can be called one of the bases on which the country stands.
The religion of Catholicism, for instance, was the rallying point behind which the Spanish gathered to conquer the Moors. Once the power of the new religion had thus proven itself, the people of the peninsula began to consider it an lberian possession and behave accordingly. This meant at times being "more Catholic than the Pope", and, when the Protestant Reformation struck Europe, being the main force countering it through such groups as the "Society of Jesus", founded by Loyola in 1540.
The missionary work of Catholicism was taken very seriously in Spain. Such men as San Francisco Xavier, who brought the religion to India, Malacca and Japan, exemplify the tradition. Others in this tradition were the conquistadores, such as Hernan Cortes, who delivered the entire Aztec Nation into the fold of the Church.
While religion in Spain is, accordingly, taken with absolute seriousness in its more profound aspects, there is a very large ingredient of laughter and enjoyment that spices Spanish Catholicism. Being so large a part of all life in Spain, religion has been expanded to include life's joyous aspects as well as the austere ones that characterize the northern religions.
Nearly every fiesta is a celebration of some religious event; even the gay, satirical Fallas de San Josh, is actually a religious celebration. Added to these are the Romerias, in which a great deal of drinking, singing, dancing, etc. are often linked to a pilgrimage to a religious shrine.
It has often been noted that Spanish religion and religious art in particular throw a stress on the suffering of Christ. This is not, as has sometimes been supposed, out of an innate sadism or brutality, but stems more from the lberian admiration for courage and the ability to withstand pain and suffering in support of one's principles. This is the quality desired by the Spanish participating in the Holy Week processions all over Spain, but especially in Sevilla. During these processions, many of the participants don peaked, black hats as the sign of a penitent and undergo the punishment of a barefoot walk, carrying a burden of some kind as a public demonstration of courage in faith.
Spain is also the producer of a vast mystic tradition including such known promulgators as San Juan de la Cruz and Santa Teresa, two of the most popular saints in Spain.
But little more need be said about religion in Spain, for it is one thing you will surely observe in large measure yourself while in Spain. You will see it in every small town, whose most grandiose building is inevitably the church. You will see it in the large cities, where each Cathedral is a museum in itself. You will see it in the art of El Greco. You will even see it in the special pastries of Santiago de Compostela, which bear little crosses on the dough. Most of all, you will see it in the lives of the Spanish - their celebrations and their daily habits of life, a morality and style of reverence that recalls the days when the Catholic Church was in its finest flowering.
Following is a list of National Holidays with their dates:
New Year - January 1
Epiphany - January 6
Day of San Josh - March 19
Holy Thursday - April 19
Good Friday - April 20
Easter - April 22
Day of San Josh Artesano - May 1
Ascension - May 31
Pentecost - June 10
Day of San Pedro and San Pablo - June 29 Commemoration of the National Movement -
July 18 Festival of Santiago - July 25
Assumption Day - August 15
Day of the Virgen de Pilar and Commemoration of the discovery of America - October 12
All Saints Day - November 1
Day of Immculate Conception - December 8 Christmas - December 25
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